Gowan returns to the first principal’s chair

At the installation meeting of Salwick Chapter No 9115, Bill Roberts installed his successor Gowan O’Hagan into the first principal’s chair in an excellent manner. On this occasion the principal guest was Leyland Group Vice Chairman Chris Blackwell who was accompanied by Preston Group Chairman Steve Bolton. They were supported by grand officer Colin Williams and Provincial Grand Steward David Caldecott.

Gowan O’Hagan.

Gowan O’Hagan.

The three incoming principals, all having occupied their respective offices on previous occasions, suggested that the ceremony would be conducted in an expeditious manner. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the arrival for the ceremony of third principal elect Russell Howarth was somewhat delayed and the decision was taken to commence the installation ceremony without his presence. Frank Cook temporarily occupied the third principal’s chair as Craig Conway was presented to the second principal, Gowan O’Hagan by Bernard Tagg. He reaffirmed his obligation before being seated in the chapter with the scripture reading being given by Alan Jackson. Much to the relief of the DC Frank McHugh, the janitor announced the arrival of Russell, who entered the chapter to be presented to Frank Cook as the acting third principal by Bernard. He also reaffirmed his obligation before being seated in the chapter with the scripture reading in this case being given by Neil Clarkson. The ceremony, now being back on track, Bernard presented Gowan to Bill Roberts for him to reaffirm his obligation with the scripture reading in this case being given by Neil Chessell. In all three cases the prayers were read by the installing principals.

The companions of the chapter were invited to retire whilst a conclave of installed principals was declared and the three principals formally placed in their respective chairs. On re-entering the chapter the companions were apprised of the progress of the ceremony as Frank McHugh proclaimed the three principals in office. The scarlet robe address was delivered by Joe Welsby, the purple robe address was given by Bob Matheson and the blue robe address by Neil Clarkson. At the conclusion of the installation of the three principals they were addressed by Frank Cook.

Following the appointment and investiture of officers Alan Jackson had the pleasure of presenting the retiring first principal, Bill Rogers with the I P Jones past principal’s jewel for him to wear during the forthcoming 12 months. (This jewel was donated by I P Jones who was a founder member of the chapter and its first principal in 1985)  Alan then thanked Bill for all the work and commitment he had given to the chapter during his year in office. The address to the companions was then given by the principal guest Chris Blackwell. The previous past principal, Paul Shuttleworth, having relinquished ownership of the I P Jones jewel was then presented with his personal jewel by Frank Cook who in a similar manner thanked Paul for all the work he does for the chapter.

The installation ceremony being declared as completed, the principal guest rose to bring the congratulations of the Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison, on what had been an excellent ceremony. Chris congratulated the three principals on taking office once more, wishing them well for the year ahead. He also congratulated the DC Frank McHugh and ADC and Bernard Tagg for their work during the ceremony and gave a special thanks to Bill Roberts for his contribution as the installing first principal and his work during the past year.

Gowan then had the pleasure of presenting a cheque to Chris for the value of £150 in support of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. In receiving the cheque, Chris thanked the companions for their donation, especially as they already make donations through their membership of the Craft.

Later in the evening, in response to the toast to the grand officers, Chris thanked the companions for the warm welcome he had received and expressed his appreciation for the attendance of the group officers. Remarking on Salwick Chapter’s original connection with the Springfields works, he remarked that although he was not an employee at the works, he had been a member of Springfields Cricket Club and he found it perplexing playing against other local teams that frequently fielded Springfields employees. It did bring back fond memories of slaking his thirst at the works owned Lea Club.

Chris (left) congratulates Gowan on his installation as first principal.

Chris (left) congratulates Gowan on his installation as first principal.

He continued on his own behalf, congratulating the three principals on taking office remarking that it was great to see experienced companions taking the offices again. He congratulated all those companions who had taken part in the ceremony earlier. In particular he commended the DC Frank McHugh, for his skilled, on the fly, modification of the ceremony following the absence of the third principal elect at the beginning of the ceremony. He was pleased to see Bernard Tagg appointed as mentor, although not an official office there is hope for the future.

Chris went on to mention recruitment, retention and retrieval in his own perceived terms of attraction, engagement, enthusiasm and feedback. By attraction he asked the companions to consider what had attracted them to the Royal Arch. Was it appealing to others? What is the chapter offering to make it appealing? By engagement and enthusiasm he asked the companions to consider what retains their interest. If they can’t think of anything, why are they attending? There must be something there to retain them. Turning to feedback, Chris enquired of those who do not regularly attend. Has any attempt been made to contact them to find out why? How does the chapter address these issues? Does the chapter have a forward plan? Where do the companions see the chapter, in say three or five years?

Having posed the questions, Chris suggested the chapter could consider making the ritual more informative and understandable by enhancing their ceremonies. Demonstrations of possible enhancements to the ritual have and are being made around the Province. It is not necessary to adopt all the suggestions but to consider what parts are relevant to their chapter.

Turning to charity he thanked the chapter for the earlier donation to the WLFC. To indicate the importance of such donations, Chris informed the companions that, in the six months ended 30 September 2014; the charity had received over £385,000 in income and at the same time had expended in excess of £320,000. Chris continued by reminding the companions of the importance of supporting Masonic halls as places to meet. He noted that Preston was blessed with one of the nicest halls in the Province. Having been on the brink of closure it was only through the considerable efforts and drive of the current group chairman Steve Bolton, who when holding the position of hall chairman, managed to turn things round with the assistance of a great team. This drive has been recognised round the Province and all concerned are to be congratulated.

Chris concluded by congratulating all those members of the chapter who had received appointments and promotions at the recent meeting of Provincial Grand Chapter.

Pictured from left to right, are: Colin Williams, Chris Blackwell, Craig Conway, Gowan O’Hagan, Russ Howarth, Bill Roberts, Steve Bolton and David Caldecott.

Pictured from left to right, are: Colin Williams, Chris Blackwell, Craig Conway, Gowan O’Hagan, Russ Howarth, Bill Roberts, Steve Bolton and David Caldecott.